Regrading project and french drain--diy vs hire

dave11

Minister of Fire
May 25, 2008
632
Western PA
I've got a little bit of a water problem on one side of my house, where there's a gable above, and rain falls directly against the foundation. With anything more than a light rain, there's a trickle of water rising up between the basement slab and the foundation wall, plus a damp feeling and light mold on that wall.

I want to remove all the big old shrubs outside that wall, strip the topsoil and go down about a foot, then place some sort of waterproof membrane along that wall, sloping down to a new french drain about 6 feet from the exterior wall.

So the area to work on would be about 40 feet long and 10 feet wide. A big job by hand.

Got an estimate from a bigger landscaping company here, they want $8K to do it. Seems pretty high to me, but I think they're all so busy around here, they can basically name any price.

I'm pretty handy, but have never run an excavator or bobcat, etc. Would this be a good first job though? I was considering also hiring an excavator to just move and replace the dirt, while I did the drain.

Other issue is the water and gas lines to the house run right through this area, though I can trace them back from the house without any trouble.

Appreciate any advice.
 

EbS-P

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2019
664
SE North Carolina
They rent those little bucket skid steers you stand in the back of. I’d be tempted to get one of those. They might even let me pull it home with my mini van if it wasn’t too far.
 

MTY

Feeling the Heat
Jan 9, 2019
458
Idaho
I paid 8K for my mini ex. So if you are going to spend that kind of money, look around for something used. You will find a million uses for it later, or you might sell it and recoup the cost.

Most of the older mini exes have a body larger than the tracks. If you get up close to a wall, turning (slewing) could have you banging against the building with the back end.
 

EbS-P

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2019
664
SE North Carolina
Been giving my situation some thoughts. If we get a good downpour I can hear water running down the cinder blocks in my basement, a really good one (2-4 inch per hour) and it will start coming through the blocks. House had gutters when we bought it I took the front side sections off as everything had rusted to the point it was all scrap 6 years ago. Just had all new gutters installed Wednesday. 1200 for the whole house with 6”. I’m hoping this goes a long way to reduce if the water intrusion or else im going to be in exact same situation I really only have 20’ to excavate. Really this not fixing problem. The problem is that we don’t have a water barrier on the walls any longer. The correct solution is to dig out entire wall all the way down re do drain and waterproofing. That’s expensive. But every bit has to help.
Evan
 
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dave11

Minister of Fire
May 25, 2008
632
Western PA
I g can rent a piece of heavy equipment for a couple hundred per day, but my question is really about how hard it is to learn to use something like a bobcat or skid steer, etc. especially right next to the house exterior wall, and above the gas/water lines.
 
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Dec 14, 2020
161
Lisburn, PA
First thing is to divert roof rainwater far enough away from house so that it can't migrate to basement wall.
Saw this on another thread. https://www.xypex.com/ It gets installed on interior.
User said it was expensive but stopped water from migrating thru basement wall.
There are other products that can repair cracks in the wall.
Operating equipment around utility lines and a basement wall is best left to experienced and insured operators.
To safely excavate down to top of footer, which can be 8 to 10 feet, you have to step back at a 45 degree angle to prevent collapse of the soil. And running the equipment beside the wall during excavation and backfill will put horizontal stress on the wall.
If the basement wall does not have horizontal cracks, I would explore the xypex.
If the water is coming in at floor level, it might require interior perimeter drainage and a sump pump.
 

dave11

Minister of Fire
May 25, 2008
632
Western PA
I'm not planning to dig down to the foudation. Just the top few feet, place a waterpoof membrane, and backfill. The membrane drains to a new french drain 6 feet from the house.
 

laynes69

Minister of Fire
Oct 2, 2006
2,596
Ashland OH
I'm the one that's used xypex. I absolutely agree with diverting the water as the best option but hands down any product with crystalline technology is the way to go for the interior. This stuff is permanent, wont flake and will self repair hairline cracks. Since we've used the stuff, I'm actually finding hairline cracks in the floor seeping that I've never seen.
 

EbS-P

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2019
664
SE North Carolina
I g can rent a piece of heavy equipment for a couple hundred per day, but my question is really about how hard it is to learn to use something like a bobcat or skid steer, etc. especially right next to the house exterior wall, and above the gas/water lines.
With gas and water lines I’d hire it. The time it would take you versus the pros is worth something ( you can decide how much) add in then proximity to gas and water. I’d never hear the end of it if it was my mistake and I damaged one of those. It’s not like I/you couldn’t learn the skills it’s just not the job I’d want to learn on.
Evan
 

Nealm66

Minister of Fire
Sep 25, 2020
912
Western Washington
I’ve owned and rented a lot of different heavy equipment . I got by but I’ve hired and been around pros that make me suggest paying to have something like that done professionally. Make sure to get a written bid, proof of insurance and maybe even a bond. Doesn’t cost the contractor hardly anything and will give you piece of mind for that kind of money.
 

andym

Feeling the Heat
Feb 6, 2020
399
Hicksville, Ohio
Ask around a bit. You may find someone who has the equipment and does this sort of thing as a side income. Last fall I hired a friend who runs his mini ex for hire. Excavated around the entire house down to footer (5 ft). Approx 130 linear feet. He only charged 700. I did the waterproofing myself, ran new tile, straitened and braced the old block wall with I beams, backfill ed with pea gravel. Took several weeks, but only cost around 4-5k total.
 

shortys7777

Feeling the Heat
Nov 15, 2017
333
Smithfield, RI
If you do rent a machine and do it yourself I would get a mini excavator. A skid steer is a pain to dig down a few feet without making a huge mess. 8k seems decent around here. I believe our company charges $250/hr just for the machine and operator. I have done a ton of drainage and gutters on old and new builds. recently my own home had some gutters all going into one drain and out to the street. The 2 rears were clogged. I used 4 inch pipe and directed one away and through a wall 12ft (which was my property line). The other side, I put in a drywell about 15ft away which happens to be a small slope away from my house. Haven't seen a single water spot since then. I'm building a playroom for my kids and needed to solve the little water I was getting. It may be worth it to do your down spouts away from the property and see what happens. They make adapters that fit right on the downspout. Make your trench sloped (even a tiny bit is all thats needed. Put a 2 or 4ft level as you go. Worth a shot for less than $60 bucks and some manual labor.
 

Corey

Minister of Fire
Nov 19, 2005
2,554
Midwest
The only two points I can offer for consideration:

1) I'd definitely work to understand the water situation better. You say anything more than a light rain sets it off. That almost sounds like ground water more than surface water to me. Is it possible the local water table is close to your basement level? If so, then grading the local surface might not do much. (though it obviously wouldn't hurt, either) I'd also look to make sure any existing foundation drains are.

As a bit on anecdote - years ago, I got water in my basement during an 8" in 24hr downpour. In talking with the neighbor, he did too until he cleared out the foundation drains. Being a walk-out, I never suspected there would be drains, but I went digging and sure enough, found them buried in 12-18" of dirt that had washed down over the years. Freeing those up to drain helped a lot.

In a second incident, one dry summer my neighbor decided to 'water the foundation' - but went to sleep and let the hose run all night long. Bear in mind this is 150-200+ feet away from the nearest portion of my house. But the next thing I know, my sump pump starts running. All our houses sit on a 'clay pan' a few feet below local ground level. So even though I work to keep my gutters in good shape, theirs continually overflow and dump massive amounts of water down into the ground where it hits that pan and spreads out as sub surface water. Doing work on my property helps, but unless I go out and maintain a good section of houses in my 'watershed' the issue still lies below ground.

2) If you're not familiar with excavation equipment, I don't know that immediately adjacent to your house is the best place to learn. Possibly you are a very fast learner, or have a field/driveway or other zone to practice in a bit. But it strikes me that digging right next to a house, one wrong lever pull could easily drive the machine into the house vs away from it. So the possibility at least exists for a very expensive operator lesson.

Good luck what ever path you choose!